BB: Alright, well we've spent a lot of time since the last time we were together obviously going through Dallas and all the things that they do well. It's a really explosive football team that seems to start every game from ahead with drives and defensive plays, blocked kicks or close to it. They have a really aggressive attitude. They've got a lot of clutch players. They're very good on both sides of the line of scrimmage, a lot of good players, a lot of depth, a lot of size, a lot of power. They do a real good job there, run the ball well, very active defensively, create a lot of negative plays, good in the kicking game with really good kickers. They've made a lot of clutch plays. Again, certainly the kicker is a part of that, but a lot of clutch plays in critical situations in the last year and a half. A team we don't know very well here that we've got to do a lot of work on in the next few days and try to zero in. I've been very impressed watching them. They've done a very good job putting the roster together, a lot of guys who weren't drafted or were drafted late that didn't have a real high profile or didn't come into the league with a real high profile in terms of draft status or things like that that are making a strong impact on the team. It's impressive. They've done a good job in their scouting department and personnel department, and I have a lot of respect for the coaching staff with obviously Jason [Garrett], Scott Linehan, Rod Marinelli. That's a really good group.
Q: What kind of impact have you seen from Greg Hardy?
BB: He's a dynamic player. We know him from Carolina. He's a handful.
Q: How much can you look at the Carolina film to study him?
BB: That's a good question. Well, you can see him in the preseason, so there is definitely something to work with there. He is who he is. He'd got his height, his athletic ability, so certainly that's going to carry over at that position a little bit. But the scheme is different and some of the things that he does are a little different, and we can see some of those in preseason.
Q: When you go to a stadium you've never played at before, what do you do pregame to prepare?
BB: I'd say each player's position is a little bit different, but from my standpoint, it's just a familiarity of the 40-second clock, the scoreboard, the location of where things are on the field, like the communication system. We had a game – I want to say it was the New Orleans game – where instead of being located right between the benches, it was all the way down to one side. So, just to kind of remind yourself of those things so when it comes up during a game, you save a few seconds or you're more comfortable looking at the right plays, going to the right plays, doing the right thing.
Q: Is that the type of thing that you'll give yourself a little extra time on Sunday to familiarize yourself with?
BB: You do it all the time, check the wind, check the sun conditions, the lights, whatever is applicable to that game, and then the players the same thing, whether it's footing, again the 40-second clock, especially the 40-second clock location because that varies from stadium to stadium. Whatever the conditions are, a lot of times the wind is different at the middle of the field than it is in the end zone or the corners of the field or that kind of thing. So, the players do that. Sometimes the surfaces are a little bit different depending on the specifics of the field and the time of year that you play there. But it's all part of the regular routine, just to check it out even if you've been there before, even if you've played there 100 times just to re-familiarize yourself with it because you haven't been there in probably at least a year. But in this case it's new. We went through it last year when we played Minnesota. That was a new venue, too. It comes up from time to time.
Q: Is there a way to guard against letting down when a team has lost as many key players as Dallas has?
BB: Yeah, they have [Rolando] McClain and Hardy coming back. They're a good football team – best offensive line in the league, they have a really good defensive front, a lot of good skill players, Witten is as good as they come, [Joseph] Randle has done a great job for them, [Darren] McFadden, he's an outstanding player, [Gavin] Escobar, [Terrance] Williams, [Cole] Beasley, they've got a great kicker and a good punter, the defensive front is a problem, the linebackers are good, plus now they have McClain in that group. [Morris] Claiborne was the fifth pick in the draft or whatever he was. The corners are good. The safeties are good. They play all those guys. Put [Byron] Jones in there safety, corner, nickel. So, there are a lot of good football players on that team. [Danny] McCray leads that special teams unit, [Jeff] Heath, the linebackers run well and they're fast and active in the kicking game. They took Atlanta down to the wire, overtime against New Orleans, beat Philadelphia, beat the Giants – not bad.
Q: Do you notice a difference in their scheme with Brandon Weeden versus Tony Romo?
BB: I don't think they've changed their scheme a lot. They're a game plan team, so they change a little bit from week to week regardless of who the quarterback is. No, it looks like I'd say Weeden has a lot of talent, can make all the throws. I don't think that's an issue. Again, they have good skill players at tight end, at running back and at receiver. They have a lot of depth – Escobar is like having another receiver. He's a big guy that can get the ball down the field. He's a receiving tight end, but he's a good one. They have a lot of weapons, and I think their offense is pretty much their offense. They're balanced. They run, play action, spread you out, run some empty, run some one-back sets, four-open-type sets. There is also plenty of three tight ends, two tight ends with the fullback in there. Coach Linehan has always done that. He's always had a good variety of plays, formations, personnel groupings, mixes them up, keeps you honest. You can't spend too much time worrying about what they did last week because you'll get some of it, but you're not going to get all of it. You're going to get some things that are specific to you. We'll have to do a good job on our in-game adjustments. Once we see kind of how they're attacking us and what they're trying to do, I'm sure we'll have to adjust to some things that we're not working on this week because they'll give you some different looks.
Q: What makes Sean Lee such a dominant force at linebacker?
BB: Really, Sean is probably one of the most instinctive linebackers in the league – maybe as instinctive as probably anybody I could think of. He's got a great nose for the ball, has a good anticipation in both the running game and the passing game, shows up in the right place at the right time, just really knows what's happening a lot of times before it occurs. The interception he had against Philadelphia is one of the best plays you'll see, trying to just turn around, find the guy, go to him, make the interception, but he's made those plays throughout his career. He's got whatever it is – 12 or something like that career interceptions. That's a lot for a linebacker, especially given the number of games he's played. He's a kid that came up and visited us when I was in Cleveland – Pittsburgh – I remember him when he was just a little guy. He's a heck of a football player, really smart, really instinctive and very productive. It seems like he makes 10 tackles every game. I mean, I don't know what the numbers are, but he's in on a lot of plays and he's got his hands on a lot of balls.
Q: With all the injuries they've had, it seems like they compete.
BB: This is a good football team. They've got a lot of depth. They've got a lot of good players. They've got a lot of running backs, just traded for another one. Good depth at receiver, good depth at tight end, [Ronald] Leary was out on the offensive line but had a couple guys fill in for them. That's a solid group. They've got a lot of defensive linemen, they all play, they all contribute, they're all good. They played all their linebackers last week. They play all the defensive backs. [Jeff] Heath has got a role, [Tyler] Patmon has got a role. [Barry] Church and [J.J.] Wilcox, starting corners, [Corey] White has got a role. I mean, those guys are all in there. It's not like they just play four or five guys in the secondary or a couple linebackers. They play five, six linebackers, eight, nine guys, 10 guys in the secondary, eight or nine defensive linemen, well more than that probably, including all the games, not in any one game because they have to inactivate some guys. But some of the inactive guys, sometimes they play, sometimes they don't, so there are a lot of people. And they use their depth; they use it throughout the course of the game. It looks like they try to wear you down a little bit and they have the depth to do it.
Q: How quickly has Akiem Hicks been able to get up to speed and learn the playbook?
BB: He's worked really hard. I mean, he's a sharp guy. He's been in the league, so he's got a familiarity. And Rob [Ryan]'s defense, I'd say there is probably some carryover from what he did in New Orleans to what we do here. I'm not saying it's the same, but there is some part of the family of each of those that's connected. But yeah, it's just kind of learning our words and our terms and relating them to things he's done in the past. I don't think we're going to be asking him to do things he's never done before. I think he's working hard to pick it up. We'll see how quickly it all comes together. I'd say he's making good progress. Having a few extra days, that's helped, too.
Q: What goes into the decision to name a guy practice player of the week?
BB: That he did a good job.
Q: Is it specifically imitating a player?
BB: That might be part of it. Doing what he's asked to do and doing it well.
Q: When forming your practice squad, how much do you weigh a player's ability to imitate a certain opposing player in an upcoming matchup versus just depth at a position?
BB: I don't think we've ever talked about having a player on the practice squad to imitate somebody else.
Q: It's been a while since you last faced a Rod Marinelli defense. Will you go back to that game to scout how he's planning to defend you?
BB: One thing about Rod, I don't think you're going to see much different. I think he'll be the first to tell you that he believes in what he's doing, he's not going to change a lot. He's had a lot of success – probably no reason to change it. Will there be a couple of game plan things for us – I'm sure obviously there will – but overall they believe in what they're doing, they do it well, they've had a lot of success with it. I mean, I can't imagine him putting in a new defense this week. That would be so out of character for them. They don't need to do that. I don't think they believe in that. But they have a lot of variety in what they do in terms of the front. They don't run a million different coverages, but they run them well. They're sound, they make you beat them. They don't give you a lot of easy plays. You've got to go out there and you've got to block them, you've got to get open, you've got to protect, you've got to have enough to beat the scheme, and they play hard and they know what they're doing. That's what it's always been. I can't imagine it's going to be much different than that.
Q: There's a connection with Gus Bradley and Monte Kiffin having similar coaching roots. Are there similarities between Jacksonville's defense and Dallas' defense?
BB: There are probably some similarities. But I'd say they're different. Rod, he does what he does. I would say Gus, Pete [Carroll], Dan Quinn, that whole family of … Now there is a Kiffin root system there, but I'd say that those two, they are similar, but they're different – I'd say particularly in the front. Rod's fronts, there is a lot of movement, they have a lot of quickness, they stunt a lot. I'd say they move a lot more than some of those other teams – not that the other teams don't move, but Dallas moves a lot. They're a very quick, explosive group and when they stunt, they cover a lot of ground quickly.
Q: What does the return of Ryan Wendell mean for the offensive line?
BB: I don't know. We'll see how it goes. It's good to have him back out there. He's been out there for a day, so we'll see how it goes. But always good to have more healthy players on the field, so that's always a good thing.
Q: How do you decide when he's ready to be brought back into a game situation?
BB: We'll evaluate it. That's what practice is for. That's what preparation is for.
Q: When you draft a player that goes on to play elsewhere, do you follow his career a little more closely to see how he develops compared to what your expectation was? For example, do you follow a guy like Jeremy Mincey?
BB: We pretty much track every player. You probably track the ones that you've had a little more closely, yeah, I'd say that. Mincey is a good example of a player that fit a couple other systems better than he fit ours at that particular point in time. He would probably be a better fit in our system now than he was when we drafted him. He's a defensive end, he plays down. He's not in coverage much. He had to at that point, at the point that we had him, he had more coverage responsibility and in the end, we had other players that did those things better than he did. As just a defensive end, he's gone on to have the kind of career that I'd say performance-wise we probably expected, but the coverage part of it didn't really work out the way we projected that it might or hoped that it might I should say, not through any lack or fault of anybody's. It just didn't turn out that way. It's the way he was in college. He's a tough, physical guy that plays hard for 60 minutes. You can't wear him out. He's got a high motor. He's tough. He's got really good playing strength. I wouldn't say that he's changed a lot. I'd say the systems that he's played in fit him better than the one we had, that's for sure. But he was a good football player, and I'd say the things he did well for us are the things he still does well. He's just asked to do them on a more regular basis.
Q: Did I hear you right that you said Sean Lee visited you as a kid in Cleveland or did I miss that?
BB: Yeah. What, were you on Snapface there when we were talking about it? He's a Pittsburgh guy – friend of a friend kind of thing. He came out to practices a couple times. He wasn't the star that he is now.
Q: You were on him early in the pre-Snapface days?
BB: Not really.
BILL BELICHICK CONFERENCE CALL TO DALLAS MEDIA
Q: Is there a trait that stands out that makes Tom Brady better than any other quarterbacks you've coached?
BB: I've been coaching Tom for the last 16 years so I don't really have a lot to compare him with other than a couple of other quarterbacks who have been on our roster when we had him. He does everything pretty well. He's very talented and works very hard. He takes his job seriously and really commits himself to performing well and preparing well.
Q: Have you seen any signs that time is catching up with Brady? Does he do anything differently?
BB: He works really hard to prepare and play, so you'd probably have to talk to him about his individual things he does. He's always been a hard working guy in the building, watches a lot of film, works hard on his situations, his techniques, throwing mechanics, things like that. That's been pretty consistent through his career from what I seen.
Q: What stands out most about Matt Cassel's time with you?
BB: Matt didn't really have much of an opportunity to play in college. I think he only threw 30-some passes or whatever it was. When we drafted him we felt that he had a lot of potential, a lot of great qualities – his athleticism, his intelligence, his throwing accuracy and mechanics and he worked very hard on all of those things. And then he got an opportunity in 2008, and we won 11 games with him as our starting quarterback. He's kind of the ultimate professional, preparing to play and being ready to go and then when his opportunity came, he took advantage of it and had a really good year for us. After the 2008 season, that's when we traded him to Kansas City.
Q: Did he impress you with way he handled that 2008 season?
BB: Absolutely, he did a tremendous job. He got better every week and won a lot of big games for us down the stretch. We just ended up tying for the division lead and lost it on a tie breaker. But he did an outstanding job, no question about it.
Q: What was the challenge of the 2008 season going without your starting quarterback?
BB: I mean that was really a long time ago. I've kind of talked about it. It's so far in the past. I don't know, I haven't really thought about it much.
Q: Is Jason Witten a guy you would have liked to coach?
BB: I mean, there are a lot of players like that in the league that you admire from a distance but you never get a chance to have them on your team. Obviously, that's just the way it is. I have so much respect for Witten, what he's done, how consistent he's been. He's been so durable and dependable, does a great job in the running game, pass protection, clutch receiver. I mean, he is really a tremendous player and as I said I have the utmost respect for what he's done this year and what he's done in his career.
Q: Why do you think you've had more success than most teams with multiple running backs?
BB: I'm not sure. We just try to do what we think is best. Each year when we put the roster together, and each week when we play against whoever that opponent is, we just try to do the best that we can to put our most competitive team on the field. I don't have any big philosophy or set answer on that. We just try to do the best we can. We had Corey Dillon and he ran for 1,600 yards and we won a championship on Corey's shoulders, so if that's who we have, that's who we have. If we don't have that, then we don't have that.
Q: How much harder is it to prepare for an opponent you rarely see?
BB: Well it's a lot harder. You have to spend more time doing it. There is no real shortcut for it, you've just got to look at the film, study the scouting report, go back and not just look at the past few games, but go back and look at teams that are maybe more similar to you in style or scheme and see how the coordinators, Coach [Rod] Marinelli or Coach [Jason] Garrett or Coach [Scott] Linehan attack your type of scheme. You go to a division team, if it's been a carryover with coaches and players, you can go back to where you were and add in some new things since the last time you played them and you have some pretty good background and you can see, is it the same or what kind of modifications have they made during that time. With a new team sometimes it's hard to get a handle of what was a specific thing they did for a particular game versus that's what they would do, they have done that multiple times in similar situations. It's hard to get a feel for that sometimes. We have done a lot of work on that in the offseason as well. Coach Garrett has been there and Coach Marinelli and Coach Linehan have had long careers in the National Football League, so it's not like we haven't faced them or are unfamiliar with their schemes. But as it relates to the Cowboys players, most of those guys our team hasn't played against.
Q: How do Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain's return impact your preparation?
BB: They are really good players. We saw Hardy in the preseason. We'd have to go back to last year to look at McClain. They are both impact players and a very good defense so this gives them more guys and guys who we have to prepare for and you have to go back and do even more homework and film study because they are not there for the last 4 games, or in McClain's case all year – we have to go back to him last year.
Q: What's been your impression of Brandon Weeden? How has the offense been different with him instead of Tony Romo?
BB: I think he's done a good job for them. Certainly, he's done a good job of spreading the ball around, worked the ball down the field in the New Orleans game, particularly at the end of the game with [Brice] Butler, [Terrance] Williams, Witten, we know [Gavin] Escobar is a big threat on that, too. He uses his back and outlet receivers well. It looks like they've put a lot of responsibilities on him with some audibles and check-with-me's in the run game or run-pass checks, whatever it is, but you can see him making decisions at the line of scrimmage based on the defensive look and getting the offense into the right place. So, he's obviously a pretty smart guy that has a good command of what they're doing, what Coach Linehan and Coach Garrett want him to do in certain situations. He seems pretty decisive about that. Talented guy.
Q: How much has continuity played a part in your team's ability to sustain success?
BB: It's hard to put a number on that or a percentage or anything. I don't know, but it certainly helps when you have continuity, particularly for your scouts who are trying to find players and compare them to other players that you have in a similar system. There is some benefit to it, but on the other hand every situation is different, every year is a new year, we have a lot of turnover on our team just like every other team in the NFL does. There is nothing new about that. We've lost coordinators, lost personnel people, turned over various other players over the years. There is always constant adjusting and modifying, trying to stay on top of it. That's just the way it is, but what continuity we've had is beneficial, I'd say particularly on the scouting end of it. From year to year, if there's carryover then that helps the players who are there the next year, but again, over a period of time there's been a lot of transition with them.